Superman on Television
Smallville: Episode Reviews
Season 4 - Episode 8: "Spell"Reviewed by: Neal Bailey and Rebecca Cyrus
Hey, folks, Welcome to the review... this one starts off with a concession speech, but before we get to that I want to make a shameless plug for the SUPERMAN HOMEPAGE TEE-SHIRTS! Why? Because they've got a cool graphic, they support this site, and hey, if you buy enough, I MIGHT EVENTUALLY GET PAID, YOU LOONIES! So please! Think of my dog, who I will let starve if you do not buy MULTIPLE shirts, NOW! Well, that and we worked really hard on even getting permission to do them, so we want it to be a success so we can do more. And besides, the shirts cure cancer! No, they do! JUST BUY ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am!
CONCESSION SPEECH FROM NEAL BAILEY:
A short note...
I've been receiving a lot of mail for a long time about these reviews. I have a pretty good idea as to how my review is reacted to. I get about 19 positive letters to the one negative letter, and the one negative letter usually sounds something like this (actual) letter:
- Dude, You are an idiot. It's a freakin TV show! No one really cares what you think. So you dislike vilolence (sic)...uh well guess what you will not get very far in life with an attitude like that. If you do not like it do not watch it, pretty simple huh? psssst! (change the channel)
Turns out, (surprisingly!), he doesn't write reviews, he's not a master of criticism or humanitarian inquiry (and nor am I, but I do have more experience at such), and he resorts to calling people names when they call him on his bullying. But the important thing is, I felt obligated to respond, even to a letter like that, because I think beneath it is some undercurrent of a criticism which agitates me for being something I disagree with, and I do not fail to see the irony in that, coupled with my frustration at a few overly vocal detractors last week who ripped into me for not thinking like they did.
Most of my letters are great. I only occasionally get letters like that. Or, when I get one, if the letter is not like that, it's telling me what I should or should not do with this review. I should lay off Lana, or I should not focus on the technical, or I should write more about the positive, or I should be less cynical, even telling me that if I don't like Buffy, I'm a moron. That's the total detractors. The people who like me generally agree with most things, haggle about a few points, but never really get their dander up and are great folks.
I'm writing this because last week I got about five particularly cruel emails and some comments that essentially (though most who wrote them when I talked to them about it backpedaled a good bit) said that I should not write my review in a certain way, and it really, unlike most of the time, got to me, because on this review, I honestly felt like the show was a 1, and some people thought so vehemently that it was a 5 that I shouldn't be able to continue reviewing, or that I'm a moron, or whatever, you know? Schoolyard stuff, but it makes you step back and question yourself, and so I did.
Mostly because someone very close to me even told me, "You know what? Maybe you should do it this way instead of that way."
My universal response is usually that if someone doesn't like my review, they can simply not read it. I write this for love, not readers (though I love the readers), and I do it because it's my honest feelings. If I were to take my feelings out of it and write for product, I might get paid, but my soul would be sold to petty blackguards, eh? I fully realize that if I say, "God, this episode SUCKED", I may offend TPTB into not granting interviews, not writing the site, not helping us with exclusives and in fact, maybe even angering them. But what I defend myself with is the fact that I am honest in this review. In character, I go off on things (like I really don't care too much about the fact that Clark is constantly revealing his secret, I ham that up because it's entertaining, both to my readers and to me, the writer), but I've never said "I hate Lana" multiple times just to go nuts or to get a rise out of Al Gough, it's because I honestly feel that way, and that's the way the muse takes me when being critical. It's hard doing that, because as someone who's created some things myself, if someone was really hard on it, it would hurt me too, but then, I console myself with the fact that it's just an opinion, and if I don't like it, move on to the next, which I recommend for you all in all things. And in the broader context of The Powers That Be for Smallville, even if I slam a show, anyone reading my review learns a little bit about the show, for sure, and no publicity is bad publicity.
I was even going to, get this, because so many people said I should lay off of Lana, separate my thoughts on her into a separate section. But you know what?
Imagine if Homer stopped the Odyssey because people complained that they didn't like the iambic fomat, and preferred lines of two trochees, because it was SHORTER.
Homer told them to jump in the lake and wrote a masterpiece, and he made it as long as he wanted it to. Now, of course, rumor is that Homer was a bunch of guys, and the only stab I have at Homer is the one that goes "D'oh!", but you see my point. Art is not about the audience. Art is about the integrity and choices of the artist, and if said artist can live with the ramifications of what he does.
This expression is my literary freedom, and I'm not going to bow to minority opinion. Or even majority opinion, if they don't like it. If Steve wants to stop publishing me, that's his choice, certainly (not that he's even remotely suggested it, just stating the obvious). And if enough people complain (a majority), I would recommend that he does. I defer to the man, because his wisdom is great, his kung fu, in fact, strong. He's stopped me from writing things in this column that would have me shot on site by the government, the ASPCA, even the Hell's Grannies (a division of the Baby Snatchers), and that's okay, as an editor, he's supposed to cull the bad stuff and keep the good, so I write what I do, and he pares it down to what he believes to be okay, and I've never disagreed with him, not once. Even on the jokes that were utterly hilarious, but just lethal death on the audience (I'm without honor in my sense of humor). But the fact remains that the response is overwhelmingly positive to my reviews, and squeaky wheels may get the grease in business, but I write not for business, but because I simply must, and to write something insincere to pander would kill me. I can't do it. And I do believe, if it weren't just a few loud mouths (with the abusive ones, I mean, not the honest criticism), that Steve WOULD tell me to calm it down. Instead, we've come up with something more constructive to take care of the folks who really think I'm the worst thing since Osama Bin Laden teamed up with Barbara Streisand and John Ashcroft for "Terrorism, the Musical".
(And BTW, before I get to what that is, just to let you know I DO exercise restraint in these reviews, you will not be hearing the first few lines to the title track from that musical, "Spreading Liberty Like Too Little Butter Over Too Much Bread!", sung by Osama himself in a high groinless falsetto.)
Anyway, here's where we're at now. Steve and I talked about it, and I've done seventy-three of these reviews (GOOD GOD). This is seventy-four. I don't want to, because some people find me overly negative, or because some people can't handle the fact that they disagree with me without writing me and calling me names, CHANGE my review for other folks. There are changes that make sense, like categorizing business into another section and keeping it separate, or culling offensive words that would get us attacked by organizations, but the ideas, the meat, the heart of this review, it is me, what I think about the show, and how I want to call it a suck or a cool.
With that in mind, unless I feel like it, I plan on changing nothing.
But, not being wholly without honor, Steve and I have yet still tried to find a way to compromise, and I've decided to put my money where my mouth is with my "Sith rules" comment from last week's review, namely, that if someone wants to come in and try and persuade people that my review is wrong and in err by writing a different take, then it should be allowed, provided Steve approves.
To that end, I'd like to welcome Rebecca Cyrus as my new counterpoint reviewer. She's not as hard-lined as I am, but she's got some experience to back her up, and get this (I've teased her about it for three years now, but she takes it well), she's a Lana fan.
She and I met when I read her Smallville blog online, and we struck up one of my Lana rant conversations, and time and again she wrote back fairly, with kindness, and though we never quite met in the middle, when I talked to Steve about people who could probably write an objective review who liked Lana, didn't get hung up on the technicalities, and who would be a less cynical reviewer generally, a more positive take, she was my first choice. So please, be kind to her. It's not a competition, it's more of a way for me to be even more able to say "If you don't like my review, don't write me and tell me to change it, read something else. HERE!" Because this review, to me, after all this time, is still a labor of love, not a labor of being everything to everyone (I leave that to Lana). And if I see a show that stinks, I don't want to hesitate just because a total sycophant would have the kind of heart attack I almost have every time Lana appears on screen.
Rebecca took the position on the stipulation provided that we gauge whether she stays on the Smallville beat or not based in your response to her column (just like with me)... so feel free to be vocal about her words in the comments, to encourage her. If she pans, she'll likely do something else for the page, other reviews or maybe some articles. She's a good writer, her kung fu is masterful. It's just a way of maybe injecting a little friendly competition.
So batter up, Becka. Get ready for these guys, because they're bloody nuts!
[NOTE: Rebecca's review is posted further down on this page, after Neal's review]
And to bring the matter to a finely hedged point... no, I don't hate this show, and I'm not trying to destroy it by pointing out the technicalities. A FAIR letter pointed out that though I may give an episode a 5, I make references and jokes for pages upon pages about the technical errors, so it looks like I hate the show.
I do that because it's entertaining to rip into something in a cynical and comical matter, not because I hate the show, for the record. And because I want all the best for the show. When there are technical errors, people really latch onto them (as I do) and take them for a ride. Many even stop watching.
I love Smallville. I will watch the show even if Lana marries Lex, because I truly do believe that Gough and Millar have their hearts in the right place. But I would be totally remiss were I not to write the kind of review I would want to read, which is bang, a review, and then a philosophical look at the show from top to bottom that is entertaining. I read my own review and laugh (Is that too arrogant? Who cares!), so it works for me, and I know there are a lot of guys like me out there (bless your hearts, you write me and helped me realize I wasn't alone in the world) who feel the same way. You CAN love something while picking it apart each week, because it's fun.
Just ask any Star Trek or Star Wars fan. Ask a Star Wars nut about the Greedo scene. Ask a Star Trek fan about time travel, the Borg's place in Archer's time, or even just say the word "Enterprise" and watch the hilarity ensue.
In closing, that's where I'm at. So don't say I don't listen to the detractors, but a dude cannot abide by being called an idiot without wanting to react eventually, and so we have.
It's either that, or I'm a total idiot narcissist who is covertly working to burn Smallville to the ground, who has no taste, hates everything, and is, as some would say, a total Lana hater when I know darned well that the fact is, she's pretty!
Welcome, Rebecca, and knock em dead! They will not hesitate to tell you EXACTLY how they feel, know that much.
So neither will I!
And by the way. Dude, no, YOU'RE the idiot. You sent a badly written piece of vitriol to a guy with the power of the bohemian press and an independent thought process. Just be grateful I've been kind enough not to post your information for all of the people who DON'T think I'm an idiot to see. Eh?
And I write that knowing, ironically, that the guy, though he wrote that, is likely still reading and will see this. Go figure.
Now, let's let THIS American idiot get on with his REVIEW:
NEAL BAILEY'S REVIEW:Nudity. It's the new Kryptonite.
Got a problem with a plot being interesting?
Show a chest.
Your characters stodgy, boring witches from the 1600s? Give em a rave where everyone is dancing suggestively and drunk!
Got a superhero who by nature isn't sexual? Tie him up and send S and M wenches after him, that'll fix it!
And virginity, that's a good way to make a side joke, don't forget.
Nothing like a lacy bra to take the place of good writing, just like a chunk of green rock when you can't think of a plausible reason that someone would have a conflict of character.
Welcome to one big S and M romp, courtesy of those who fetish girls in lieu of a plausible plot.
A LOT of people loved last week's episode, despite the fact that I gave it a 1.
I stand by my review, but I have to say, seeing this episode, I wish I could integer my rating, because that episode and this episodes, they're both ones, but this one, it makes Mxy's episode look like an epic.
Rosetta is to Jinx as Jinx is to Spell.
But here's the thing... it doesn't matter how bad it is, when a show falls beyond that threshold of "below average" to "poor", you can just go to town, and it's still a 1. And go to town they did.
I tried to find the good in this episode. I asked Batmouse, who's a really great voice of reason for me in the message boards and in chat, what was good, and he said that Lana and Clark were on a level playing field at the end of the episode, and that the whole thing in the caves and the map were closer to resolution.
I don't personally see how we've gotten farther with the plot on the stones, as everything is still where it was when we started, barring the map Lex had being missing.
As for Lana and Clark's position, I find it vastly overshadowed by the hypocrisy of character on Lana's part (And I don't mean I don't like her views, I mean her character is inconsistent. I'll explain.)
We open up in 1604 France, where of course, everyone speaks English through a universal translator (acourse). The head witch, with her head covered, starts some rather cheesy dialogue as the death wagon rolls to the pyre where they will be burned.
I wrote: "Wooden acting from the chief witch". This before I knew it to be Kristen, of course.
In general, the whole scene at the stake was melodramatic, it felt anachronistic, and furthermore, it was nonsensical.
Why? Well, look at the show as a whole.
This witch, the one that Lana's body holds, she can lift up her hand and throw Superman around. She can wave her little fingers and start a magical rave. She can throw open a door guarded by Kryptonian technology.
But she can't stop an uptight Christian demagogue from tying her to a stake and lighting her on fire?
Some might say that she's just waiting to come back in the modern times, so that she can take care of things in a less threatening environment. But I hardly think that makes sense, given that if they used their powers like they did in the future on the people of the 17th century, who still hadn't figured out how to harness gunpowder with any kind of deadly accuracy beyond general area, they could take over the world.
Which leads me to the conclusion that this is one of those stories they just want you to sit back and enjoy for comedy, and for the sex aspect, and for the oddball situations. Much like, say, other shows not Smallville.
Don't know about you, but I watch Smallville because I want to see the epic unfolding of the mythos that leads a young man who could have become corrupted by power to become the overman, the best we can be.
I don't watch it to see sex, comedy, and oddball situations.
Now, that differs from most people, who just watch TV to get taken away, but get this, I watch Smallville as essentially my only real TV show that I care about. And I'm not in the demographic, so it makes sense that they would pander to young men with their hands in their pants and women who like arbitrary drama, but to me, it's kind of artistically questionable to dangle a fish of the epic in front of my nose in order to get me watching, then resort to nudity and cliche devices and failures of character to keep people watching, forgetting the original intent.
What is Lex on this show now, for instance? Is he a counterbalance for Clark, a villain in the making, or is he the plot device that enables Clark to get a helicopter when he needs it, or someone fired? How many times has Clark gone to Lex to speak of a matter of character, and how many times because he needs a Lois out of his life?
And speaking of Lois, why was she even in this show at all? Give me something she contributed, outside of instigating the birthday party? Seriously. What did she do? She walked around, and she had boobs. I felt like I was watching Austen's Wonder Woman in Action Comics, I kid you not.
Here is the main plot, right now. Clark is dealing with Jor-El's mysterious plan (the main plot for almost three years now, with no change). Here are the subplots (recycled by the month). Lionel does something to jeopardize everyone, he gets foiled, but then somehow retains his status and tries again. Lana has someone fall all over her. That person either breaks up with her, or goes nuts. Chloe pines over Clark and essentially jumps in as a device to forward the plot, usually revealing the villain. Lex is a friend to Clark, but is constantly portrayed to be the bad guy by misunderstandings. Martha and Jonathan step in and tell Clark what's right or wrong.
Now, look at the above, and tell me how any of this forwards the overall story of the mythos. And look at it and tell me how much of it goes to keeping viewers? Almost all of it. A cynic would say all of it. I say the only redeeming force right now is the entertainment value (which is fading for me, because the show has changed its entertainment target from people who like a good story to people who like T and A), and the times when we see a definition of character (the event episodes, which are largely 1 in every 5 now).
I go back to the old argument from review's past. "Neal, would you rather they do only 6 episodes a season, or 22, and have some winners and some losers?"
I still say they should only make episodes that make sense, are really cool, really well written, and forward the overall story.
This story, it does not forward anything. It's exploitive, and it's nonsensical, at that.
Last week's, at least you can suggest they can make wheat from Mxy, and I can buy it, even if the episode failed. This week? Not so much.
Which brings my point to a head. This oddball story, if you like oddball stories, was probably a blast. But I don't. I like serious mythology (it can have humor, but it should spring from getting me to the story at hand. Think of a Superman comic book. Austen proves they don't work very well as violent comedies with a lot of seductresses and passive aggression. On the opposite hand, Az proves that they don't work as totally cathartic works of self-hate. The balance lies somewhere in the middle, but not to the extreme).
That said, this was likely the best opening ever, because I got to see the character I really don't like burned in effigy, and I was tempted to up the rating just for it, like I did when Lex attacked the meter maid (still a great scene), but I'm beyond that now, I'm so tired of not seeing the plot go anywhere, it's just slowly killing the enjoyment for me.
Listen to the dialogue. It sounds like a bad serial, and if it were a bad serial, more power to it, but it's not.
"We will have the stones of power!"
"You will be trembling at my feet!"
Well, they didn't say that, but it's implied. This is one big psychosomatic feminist trip in other ways, and I could get into it if I wanted hate mail, but I don't. It's there for the looking, if you want it.
It's ironic, I mean, they make Lana perfect in every thing she does, so perfect, that even when they make her a d@mn witch, she doesn't get held responsible for ANY of her actions!
Two weeks ago, Clark did some questionable things while someone else. He kissed a girl who didn't want to be kissed, he choked Lex, and he threatened people.
Lana slammed her locker at him, punch slapped him, and hurt his feelings horribly.
Chloe told him he needed therapy, and treated him like garbage.
Jason will hardly talk to him any more.
Lex pointed a gun at him.
The repercussions are STILL hitting him, two episodes later.
Lana threw a party in Clark's barn that looked like it involved alcohol and caused the loss of virginity for multiple people, nearly exposed Clark's secret, almost KILLED Lex, and get this, COST CLARK A FULL RIDE AT PRINCETON, we can suppose.
Now, what's the bigger crime, trying to kiss someone who doesn't want to be kissed (unknown to you, because you're a villain), or potentially destroying a college, and thus a ticket out of the small town, a better life, and all kinds of acclaim?
I know that neither were in control of their actions, I'm not blaming Lana for this. Here's what I'm pointing out.
I stated Clark's consequences, which were pretty severe. Here's Lana's lone consequence for all the things she did:
Clark looks at her and says, "Let's just say you haven't been yourself lately!"
Then he offers her a sheepish, aw shucks grin, and they walk out of the cave.
I'll get to their conversation and how much of a crock that was later, but is it not painfully obvious the double standard here? And it would be so for me even if the sexes were reversed. This isn't an I hate women thing. This is that I see obvious favoritism to a character, likely because she's female (and hot to most), and how it disgusts me into not wanting to see a single thing her character does.
And get this. Last week, Lana slapped Clark, many argue justifiably (I don't), because he tried to kiss her, without forcing her to kiss him, he just leaned in and did, even though he was being a fink.
This week, Lana ties him up, Chloe scratches his chest wide open, and then Lana FORCES him through compulsion to kiss her, but it's NOT EVEN MENTIONED later on.
But hey, no double standard here, right? None at all.
So Lana's an heir to a witch. Huh! Go figure! She doesn't look wiccish.
Mel Brooks, slap me now.
Great Ebay product placement, by the way. Like last week's Old Spice wasn't enough, remind me more that this show is not a good piece of drama, but something designed to sell me stuff and make me think I'm not being conned into it.
The hair of two virgins. Now we know that Lois isn't a virgin.
But Neal, people will invariably counter. They don't say it specifically!
No, they don't. Not saying they do. But they say it. A good parallel is again, 9-11 and Saddam Hussein. Whether you agree with the war or not, it is plainly obvious (and widely reported by many authoritative, bi-partisan sources) that Saddam Hussein was NOT directly behind 9-11. Nonetheless, over a long period of time, people on TV would say 9-11 and Saddam Hussein in the same sentence, purposefully, and it got to the point where a wide swatch of people believed by inference that he was behind 9-11.
How does this relate? Well, Lana as a witch searched for the "hair of two virgins".
She plucks one off her own head, and it is shown that she knows what a virginal hair looks like by examining it. She then takes one from Lois, newly arrived, and looks at it, and makes a comment that it is gray. She then goes somewhere else to find a virgin's hair, to Clark. Now, she doesn't say "That means you're not a virgin", but the obvious inference is that she's not, and the obvious reason it's not explicitly stated is plausible deniability of the truth of what's been said, because they KNOW that if they say Lois is not a virgin, someone like me will pipe up and state the obvious:
Some people want Lois and Clark to go to their wedding bed virgins. Some people want them to have had sex with Lori Lemaris and Lex Luthor or whomever BEFORE they hit the wedding bed. We can't please both, so the logical solution is to just have sex relegated to shows that deal with sex. A Superman show deals with the idealistic utilitarian humanitarian and how he identifies with the core values of every human being. It's why Superman doesn't do politics, it's why he doesn't talk about abortion, even though he likely has an opinion about it. It just alienates a fan group, and that doesn't abide with a humanitarian character. Not with me, anyway.
And take it the opposite direction. It also affirms Clark and Lana are virgins, which may estrange folks who lost their virginity at a young age and feel perfectly fine with that fact. No?
So here again we have oddball comedy played for yuks, not realizing that it alienates the people who don't want to watch cornball TV. If I wanted that, I will (and do) watch South Park when the need arises to chuckle, because they're MUCH better at it than Smallville.
And don't try and tell me that the evil witch just couldn't get another hair from Lois, because she was bold enough to take one. That's if the reason it wouldn't work was because it was, uh, gray. Whatever.
And what, Chloe's not a virgin? You see the kettle of worms this opens up?
Lois goes to Lana's to pick her up, and they behave like total chums.
Maybe I missed an episode, but when did they get familiar? Last I recall, they were rather adversarial, and snarky, and Clark was between them. Maybe my memory fails, but I don't see them as Chloe/Lana type friends yet, the logical jump threw me off.
It's funny, I know the witches have the memories of their host body, but it just seemed odd that even though she might know it, a witch would use the word "retro". Again, pulled out of the narrative.
I did like the broken scissors bit, but WHY, WHY did it have to be in this episode, in such a convoluted context?
Schubert made me laugh... we cut to Lex playing the piano very well, and he's playing a fantastic piece, but instead of Lex, I am immediately transported to the Dr. Evil version of "What if God Was One of Us?"
I expected him to finish, and when Lana said something, he'd turn to her.
She'd say, "Dr. Evil! That was FANTASTIC!"
And then Lex: "Yeah, I wrote that!"
I mean, if you're gonna ham it up, do the whole porker, people!
Here's a good question. Why do Earth witches get power from Kryptonian symbols? I know! Because they just can't seem to wrap up the Jor-El plot, so they convolute it more and more by tying it in with every single Earth myth and legend, because that makes it "deeper". Well, maybe if all of these myths were treated seriously, and not as exercises in girl power and comedy. It works when it's a map from another time period, not when you make the main characters into sexist witches for comedy yuks.
And hey, not only do we have definitive aspects of a character that's supposed to be everything to everyone's sexual preferences, we have three high school kids boozing it up. Way to go.
I mean, sure, Lana can't be blamed, but Chloe and Lois? Both underage. Chloe especially. And they just bottoms up without thought.
Now, as I've said with the Jason and Lana situation, no problem admitting that stuff like this happens. I know, because that's how someone close to me became an alcoholic, bottoms up all through a childhood. But you know what I resent? When something like that is just played off as nothing in a show that's supposed to be about those elusive "moral values" that meant so much in the election, for kids, no less.
And to be perfectly frank, I find the threat of alcohol a LOT more prominent than the dangers of having safe pre-marital sex, but that's only because I've seen someone consumed from the inside out while consuming all of the other people around that person from the inside out, for the fun a little booze gave that person in celebrating innocent victories and failings of life.
Way to go, guys.
I guess it's a device to move the plot forward, too. But then, you could also plausibly argue that sticking a magical stick up their butts could change them into witches. Doesn't mean that's my preferred method of getting from A to B, and that I won't criticize it.
And I'm overly affected by this issue, but that's my whole point. Everyone has something that overly affects them, and if one of those things is the way you look at your sexuality, Smallville just lost a viewer. If you're like me but you can't get over it, Smallville just lost a viewer. And I don't want this show gone. I want it the best it can be.
This is not the best that it can be.
So they change into witches, and Lois actually, I kid you not, grabs her boobs, and says, "Hey, look!". But it's not exploitive, no, no, no.
And then, even though Lana is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CHARACTER, she still turns in derisive snide, acting like typical Lana, and says, "Yes. They're very nice." (cynicism left out, but there was plenty in her voice).
Even as a witch, Lana can't help being competitive and everything to everyone, snarking when someone appears even in some arena to be better than her.
And for the record, Lois is the best of the three in that arena.
And Lana is dead last.
My next note, quite apt, written just after she grabbed her own boobs: "Show my the Superman myth in this crap!!!!!!"
With just that many exclamation points.
So they then go to the party and show up in S and M dominatrix outfits. They're 18 now, so it's legal, but it's still exploitation of sexuality. Also, you gotta wonder, in the late evening where do three women get completely matching outfits? I guess I should just shut up and enjoy it, huh?
I love that email, "Neal, I know that next week isn't going to have substance, but COME ON, MAN! THREE CHICKS AND ONE DUDE!"
I repeat, if I want three chicks and one dude, there are many other places completely devoid of the pretense of plot, and with hotter women, frankly.
I don't watch this show for that.
Now, with all of these people leaving the show because of the nudity, until this episode, I've poked fun at it, but I've never said, "God, that's just too much."
Way to go again, guys. God, that's just too much.
Dominatrix women, a naked rave with alcohol and people sleeping with each other, men dancing around with their shirts off, women grinding into them.
My note: "Okay. Enough is enough, guys. You don't need ratings THAT badly."
The leap here is that three witches, back from 400 years of death, dying because they were intent on an unholy power and take over the world, would pause for long enough to have a hormone driven rave with puppet high schoolers, so they can get their freak on and grind, being normal kids like us.
Well, yeah. Sounds like a piece of erotic fiction, to be honest. And a bad plot, at worst.
Why would the Kents want to be absent when the Princeton guy came?
Cut back to Lex, now playing the piano for the 15th straight hour. I say that he would have simply passed out. I move my fingers in such a dedicated motion for about 14 hours each day, writing, and I don't pass out, but I move at a leisurely pace, maybe 40 words a minute, and at the end of the day, my hands are sore, sore, sore. So say I did my max, which is about 90 a minute, and did it all night and into the morning, I'd likely be more than bleeding.
But that's not what really bugs me. What really bugs me is that though Lex was aware of what was happening (though he couldn't stop himself), Clark sits next to him, and shoves a grand piano ten feet without effort.
This just after Lex experiences Clark's super-strength firsthand on his neck, and confronts him about it.
They just don't even care if Clark uses his powers in front of anyone, I've decided. They just don't even care. The implausibility has to not bother them at all. How hard would it be to simply have Clark pull his hands away? But that's not COOL. Not like a rave, or drinking, or virginity of a lack thereof, right? Shoving a grand piano, that's COOL. And instead of finding a way to make it make coherent sense in the framework of the plot, eh, just do it guys. Cause it's cool.
And his playing is still flawless. Pretty farfetched.
Mxy is an EMMY compared to this.
Nice Cyclops effect. It doesn't come near to making up for all of the bad in this episode, but it was a moment that shone. Really neat, and well done.
Clark loses his powers again. It made me wonder how he'd get out of the situation, but apparently, like black K, all you need is some kind of McGuffin device like a rock with letters on it to give you all of the powers of a Kryptonian back.
Here's a plot I could see coming out of this show. Clark loses an arm. Clark puts the puzzle pieces together. The arm grows back.
I understand the Kryptonian caves heal, yeah. But if you're going to make it that easy to get out of things, why not simply leave him with the powers to begin with and come up with some other wrinkle? Like, as I see it, an easy solution would be to place a curse on Clark that holds him in the barn, or maybe another plot twist. What I don't understand is why if these witches can compel people to do whatever they want, they don't just force Clark to take them to the rock and hand it over like a zombie. Oh, I know! Because then they couldn't resolve the plot, and most people are so lost in what the TV tells them they don't even see how ridiculous it is.
Will Jason's face be cut next week? Sigh.
More bad dialogue. Lana says, "We will be GODS among men!"
Aside from the cliche there present, I didn't know that becoming all powerful gave you a sex change. Go figure! I would have thought they'd have become goddesses. But hey, it's an easy slip for writer guys living out their fantasies of being GODS over three women at once in S and M outfits. Or is that reading too much into it, master? Et-hem. Sorry. Mistress.
Gives the whip a whole new meaning now, doesn't it? Now I can't even enjoy using the whip to calm myself without picturing a Lana dominatrix. C'est life, as the French say. Only in 1604 camp, they'd say it, "That's life!" for some reason. But subtitles would have been too much for a largely impatient young audience, they must think. And translating French, well, that costs money, cuts into the profit, takes time.
So Clark comes after the women with no powers, and a shotgun.
Great lesson there. When you celebrate your birthday while virginal through booze, be sure to follow it up by solving your problems with a gun.
It can be argued, how would Clark stop them, then?
I counter, what's he going to do? Pump three innocents full of lead because some malevolent spirit has them? Shoot them unconscious? Shoot the book? He already knows that a shotgun is worthless against them (as they prove, ripping it out of his hands). He already knows that even with his powers, they can't be stopped. Not plausible, not right. Just a case of bringing in a shotgun because it looks cool. And I like how cool shotguns are. I played all three Dooms, and the low budget zombie flick I'm writing is positively LADEN with shotguns.
But here, it's just thrown in. Another little thing, and a lot of little things add up, they do.
So the girls wake up in a cave, next to Clark, surrounded by Kryptonian writing, and Clark has a shotgun, he's holding a fragment, and they're in S and M outfit.
Aw shucks, you're back!
I wrote: "Explain THIS one, pal!"
And of course, they immediately cut from the scene after "Let's just say you haven't been yourself.", not bothering to show how he gets out of that one.
Big gaping hole, I say. Picture it. You wake up half naked next to a man with a shotgun in a cave in the middle of nowhere.
He says, "You magically turned into witches, dressed up sexy, and tried to kiss me!"
CLANG go the prison bars, and up come the charges of rohypnol rape. At least, in the real world. They didn't even try to make it explainable, because they know it's so ridiculous.
Another good point in this episode... Clark finally realizes that magic can hurt him. Although this has already been seen, it's the first time it's explicitly stated. Like the girl who kissed people into doing what she wanted, that was magic, (no K involved, as I recall) and there have been plenty of villains not made by K who affected Clark. So it's kind of undermined a bit.
We have resolution of the whole "Jason fired" thing. Of course, no resolution as to how he's getting by, what Nell thinks of this.
And then, I was thinking about it, last week, without any evidence at all, Lana simply assumes that because Jason was fired, Clark did it. Given the fact that she was snogging all over the school, in front of people, across the mainland of France, and in every conceivable scene they could conjure to show Lana making out with someone, she assumes blindly that Clark, someone who has never sabotaged her personally before, and in fact only done things to affirm her when she's been with her THREE other men, did it. Without asking anyone.
Then she goes to Lex and says, "Clark can be so selfless, but then, he got Jason fired" Wah wah wah! Another "I affirm you BUT" passive aggressive style of dialogue. So she compliments Clark, which makes her a nice person, and that offsets how much of a total bich she's being by accusing him of getting Jason fired without any evidence or affirmation that he did it. Emotional logic. It gets people elected!
And then Lex tells her, and then she handles it like she handles everything. Instead of communicating how she feels and dealing with the situation, she runs out and slams the door.
Some think Lex did it to get Lana, but the way the dialogue pointed in this episode, it looked like he was trying to look out for her. And he really did. Older men taking advantage of young girls can be DANGEROUS, aside from stupid. I've seen more single mothers that started out with older guys just to look mature than almost any other way of getting to a kid.
So that's a Lexana, as if this episode wasn't focused on Lana enough.
And then there's a Crapana, where she accuses him of hiding secrets, with an "s" from her (I didn't know there were more than one, clue me in here).
Then she lets out what she's been hiding from him for eight episodes, to set the records straight. She says she's doing it because she "...don't want to do the same thing to you." (keep "secrets")
But look at it this way. Who kept secrets, plural? The tattoo, the fact that she loved him even when she was with Adam, the caves thing, the tomb knocking her out, JASON?
Those are secrets, with an "s".
So we can say there is something to be said for Lana coming clean. Good. But why did we have to suffer through arbitrary drama this long? The optimist looks to the future and says, okay, Lana will now be clear with Clark, and all will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.
Given the track record, I think that's about as likely as there not being any exploitive nudity in the following show, considering the trailer shown put as its key advertisement "pros" LUST AND LIES!
Wow! LUST AND LIES! I can't wait! Because lord knows, this week there wasn't enough LUST and LIES!
In fact, why not change the name of the d@mned show to Lust and Lies and be over with it? Make it a spinoff, and then start a new show, called Smallville, about Superman growing up.
1 of 5, without mercy, and I swear to monkeys if this doesn't start turning around soon, I won't even be buying the DVD set for this season.
This is entirely unacceptable. Only Velocity was more crap than this, and even that wasn't totally objectifying to women. Number two on the top five worst episodes, with a wiccan bullet. Why BS? It was a shallow excuse to watch three hot women climb all over a young man in S and M gear, and they wrapped an episode around it.
SUPER SHORT REVIEW:
S and M, while a practical alternative expression of sexual deviancy and titillating, is cringe worthy when placed in the hands of teenagers, especially drunk teenagers who proceed to grind half naked and carry around shotguns. Witches, apparently, are all about fun and nothing about plausibility. Oh, and by the way, if you have breasts, you can get away with anything, but if you DON'T have breasts, expect a rain of hell the likes of which you've never seen when what you do comes to light. And a quick question, a good question: "What does this crap have to do with the Superman myth?" 1 of 5.
Commentary: You know, if I'm nuts, and Lana doesn't drive anyone crazy, why the heck do most of the entries in the caption contest focus on her negative traits instead of using the image for visual humor? My thought? Her character is despised almost universally.
The winnah (please note, et-hem, NOT a derivation of a movie quote!):
Emily: Wow, Lana, you smell really good. Lana: It's my Old Spice: Red Zone. Emily: Old Spice: Red Zone? Lana: Yes, Old Spice: Red Zone Director: And Cut. Was that product placement to conspicuous? Old Spice Rep: Not at all.
The not-so winnahs, but not so loosahs:
Kid: Bash the mirror on the floor it's bad luck for you, bash it against your skull, it's good luck for all.
Call me narcissistic, I don't care, these ones still make me laugh:
And then Momma bear said, "Who's been sleeping in my bed?" And Goldilana replied, "We're both adults! We're not hurting anyone!"
See Lana run. Run, Lana Run. Clark, save Lana! Save, save, save! Watch it get boring. Lana, boring Lana. See the shark! Jump, shark, jump!
Girl: What is it? Lana: It's a post-modern re-imagining of a super-hero myth in a modern context, involving teen issues. Girl: But what's that part? That part right there? Lana: "Lana, Chloe and Lois advance on Clark, who is bare from the chest up, in S and M "Witch" outfits, and begin molesting his body." Girl: Oh! I get it! Smut! Lana: No, no, no! You're frustrating me! DIE!
[Lana reading letter from Clark] Dear Lana, your a miserable wretch. I'm tired of your guilt trips and condescending attitude. I'm going on to bigger things and a prettier woman, while you'll rot here in Smallville. Love always, Clark. Little girl: Owned!
Lana: "WOW!!! Neal's last epsisode review is actually 26 pages long now, I can't believe they are actually selling as short stories now..."
(Actually, it's 80, not 26, and technically, it's a NOVELLA).
The Big K
Psychiatrist off camera: And now what do you see Lana? Lana: I see me being worshiped by everyone... Emily: Still looks like one stick-figure to me... Psychiatrist off camera: Lana... your so vain.. you probably think this song is about you... don't you?.. don't you?...
Lana: I'm going to read for you, and tell you how perfect I am, and we'll have days and days of fun. Emily: Okay, but first, can we play a game. It's called, "Is there a God?"
(For some reason, this evokes visions of the Twisted Toyfare Theater with "God-is-Dead" Smurf, about to be killed, saying, "We should never have forsaken Jeeeeeeesus!")
And here's my scrapbook of love letters, from Whitney, and Clark, and Pete, and Lex, and Jason, and bug boy Greg, and magnetic guy Seth, and Tina. But the creepiest letters of all are from these two guys, Gough and Millar, who say they want to see me all the time no matter how inconsequential I am or how little I have to do with the story, and I should always dress in pink and never be anything less than perfect. Aren't they sweet?
Hallmark introduces its "Sorry I tried to kill you... again" line of cards.
I've finally found a way to keep Lana with me. I had her stuffed in this reading position on my bed. I can't even tell the difference!
Oh I remember this...Dear Diary, why is it that everyone gives me everything I want every minute of every relationship I've ever had but then when I get mad because I'm a selfish tart, I make snide comments at them telling them how they've only been good at being mean or keeping secrets, oh the horrors of teenage girldom, oh the shame!
Lana: It's a letter from Jason asking me to move to Hawaii with him. Emily: Why Hawaii? Lana: Something about the age of consent being 14.
Lana: When Lord!? When do I get to see the Sailboat!?
[Lana reading]: Dear Ms. Lang after carefully reviewing your 2003 tax return, we've determined that there's no possible legal way a 17 year old can afford to run half her own business, drive a brand new truck, and pay for Art School in France. An IRS auditor will be in contact with you shortly. Little Girl: *cough*plothole*cough*
Lana: A card for me? Roses are red, chocalate is rich, I love Clark but Lana's a ..... Hey!
(SEE! That's a good way to be family friendly and still be risky.)
Lana: And that's how Pete saved me from Neil last week. Emily: Wow. He's an idiot. Lana: Now now... Neil's just excitable. Emily: I meant Pete, moron.
It was then that Lana realized the only way to survive now was to band together with Neal and kill all the people who spelled his name wrong. They would both be vindicated. But how was she going to get him to wear pink?
Lana: And that's my plan to start twisting Lex Luthor around my pinky finger. Emily: Girl power! Viewers everywhere: WHY?! OH GOD, WHY?!
(Lana): "And this is a picture of me and my parents, just a few weeks before they were killed in the meteor shower." (Emily): "You think that's tragic? Lemme tell you how my cousin Walter died..."
Emily: New book? Lana: Smallville episode review.
(Lana): "So, according to this, even though 49% of the audience despises me, disagrees with every single decision I've ever made, and thinks I'm an absolute disgrace to Smallville... I get to stay on the show for another four years?" (Emily): "That's the way democracy works!"
Girl: And those are all the reasons we should have an inappropriate, underage, lesbian, bad girl, bich wesel rat kung fu style relationship. Lana: Give the people what they want, I always say. NEAL: *has aneurysm, collapses* Lois: Don't forget me! Chloe: And me! Announcer: ... today is a sad day at Superman.com. In a blast that was heard 'round the world, Neal Bailey's head exploded while watching Smallville.
Lana: You're not quite manipulative enough. You're semi-manipulative. You're quasi-manipulative. You're the margarine of manipulation. You're the Diet Coke of manipulation, just one calorie, not manipulative enough. Emily: But... Lana: Sh! Emily: But what... Lana: Sh! Emily: What does that have to... Lana: Sh! Emily: ...have to do with Lana: SH! Emily: I'm just... Lana: Let me tell you a little story about a man named Sh! Sh! even before you start. That was a pre-emptive "sh!" Now, I have a whole bag of "sh!" with your name on it.
Honorable mention for WTF factor:
Lana: Awww I'm so pretty. No WONDER Bailey hates me!
(Uh, yeah. I hate pretty things. Adam West voice: The only POSSIBLE explanation, Robin!)
LETTER OF THE WEEK:
There are two, this week. The one below is the serious one, but it's wholly tied with the following, from francisco:
- your page is good
This is actually a section from a letter, but it's really well written so I went with it... from JB, who earned multiple credits this week... way to go!
- Fair warning - I'm not nearly as familiar with the Superman mythos as most of the people that probably watch the show. You've discussed the idea of "Clark as a Christ-like redeemer of the fallen and the falling." I think this plays a role in the argument why Clark losing his virginity would violate the character of Clark/Supe as we know it. However, consider this violation not of his wholesomeness (though that's a valid point), but of his impotence. Stick with me. Clark exemplifies many Hemingway-esque traits-the strict moral code, the restrained emotions, the restless searching for his social belonging. And, of course, the tragic weakness. Not kryptonite, which in this sense might be a "McGuffin," I think you called it. His powers are his weakness (oh, the irony). His abilities are what thwart his attempts to live like a normal person. Some of it is because of hiding them, some of it is because of his self-imposed obligation to use them to help others. Regardless, they are the primary source of his frustration, and the reason he is unable to establish many deep, totally honest relationships. Sure, he's shy-but his personality and upbringing are somewhat a product of his plight. He's socially paralyzed, no matter how good he's become at pretending otherwise. In romantic settings, this is a form of impotence. Similar types of emasculation are everywhere in Hemingway-Jake, in The Sun Also Rises, for example. Part of the heroism of these characters is the fact that the frustration, the emasculation, and the impotence do not faze the character's honesty or sense of justice. And we admire them for it. Clark is no different. For this reason, he cannot break though. He cannot overcome his handicap, else violate his tragic flaw. Sure, he's captain of the state championship football team now, but we all get the sense that this high won't last. This episode made it obvious what a struggle it is for him to walk the fine line between playing to succeed and allowing his abilities to ruin the game-or hurt someone. He's admired for what he did, not who he is, and that type of admiration is far less enduring. Maybe Quigley will now demand a real drug test, and Clark will refuse because of what it would reveal. It would be assumed that he's on steroids, the Crows would then forfeit their championship, and Clark likewise his scholarship. He can't win. Likewise, he can't overcome the sexual frustration that is part of his character-not with Lana, or anybody else. It's crucial to his identity as our hero. He can't be allowed to satisfy his desires any more than he could be allowed to conquer the effects of kryptonite.
BLAM! Oh wait, never mind.
Look! Over there! Half naked people (got too literary there for a second)
My favorite piece of business this week is from JB, who gleefully wrote in to me last week, suggesting that Cat was, in fact, a creation of mine to further extrapolate the Lana rant. Heh. I read it, and it sounds like something I could have written, but nope! Cat was just cool nutso. She didn't respond to my offer of a drink though. Maybe I AM Tyler Durden! Holy cow!
But no, for the record, all of the letters in the LOTW are going to be real. What point would there be to making one up?
Onward and upward!
I'm still a little behind on letters (TOOOOOOOO MUUUUUUCH!), but I'm doing my best!
Scott Jones pointed out that Hamilton should be in the KO Count for continuity changed characters... agreed.
Scotty V laments that everyone has to come from a broken home in this show, even Flash. And he has a point, I mean, who doesn't? Even Clark's real parents are dead. What's wrong with a stable family other than Clark's? But it does increase the contrast of how good Clark's family is, I think.
Steve Crow corrects Mxy's spelling, it's Mikail, not Mikhail.
JB has multiple cool points.
First, in Jinx, where is the announcer, when all of the announcement equipment is in the room Chloe visits. Also, Old Spice shows up yet again, the announcer lists it. Further, he wonders why, if the effects of the sound jamming thing are permanent on Mxy, why did she have to leave it on for the whole game. I wonder why he just sat there for the whole game with an ear splitting siren in his ear, but you forget, tension is gone if he doesn't sit around, right! Hah!
JB also requests his credit where credit is due for seeing Lexana coming aways away, which he did. Several claim the honor, but hey, you know what? They all get it. It's something that's been rumbling around for a while.
He also suggests that maybe Lexana would be okay, because then at least Lex scenes are always cool. My personal fear? Lana will destroy Lex as a character for me. I just couldn't take THAT. Aneurysm indeed.
He also made a joke I repeat, that's hilarious... this week, it should have been the K-raft, the Kraft, complete with everyone eating mac and cheese. Witches and mac and cheese! Who could complain!
Further, he notes that although all Clark had to do was tap Mxy on the head and knock him out, instead he flings him all the way down the hall AND breaks Chloe's handcuffs, all of which make the situation much more suspicious.
Zachary Kumer put to rest a line of thought for me. Is Lionel still in the know about the secret? I say yes, because as Zack points out, Lionel SEES Clark run off at super-speed as he's lying on the floor.
Also, Zack suggest, quite plausibly, that maybe they're making Lana hated on purpose. I mean, Clark has to have a reason to leave her behind for Metropolis! Good thought.
Mark offers several compelling ideas... first, a picture of the symbol for FIRE.
Second, Mark theorizes that the third Crystal is in Utah! His explanation:
- I know you haven't posted about Ezra Small Prophesies that were in the ledger, but I believe they point to where the third crystal is. This Ezra Small website gives all of the prophesies over the past few seasons. The most recent one has a three line statement. "We roamed the Range, forded the Creek, tamed the Canyon." Well Range Creek Canyon is a site of an untouched Fremont Indian settlement (noted for pictoglyphs). I compared the region in the map in "Run" to the region around Range Creek Canyon. Note the kryptonian words are "Tree, Ruins, Badlands, Mountains, Plains".
Also, if you look, JB and Gabriel Kwok tell me, totally cool, the actual disease goes out of Lionel's face with special effects. Neat!
And Gabriel, finally, wonders (as do I) why Clark's hearing didn't find out about Lana.
I further wonder what the heck happened to super-hearing at all. When's the last time we saw it?
Well, that's it! Nothing more to see here! More next week!
Don't forget the KO Count, and the Smallville chat, 9PM pacific. Tell me I'm a moron in real-time!
And now for Rebecca's review! Be kind!
REBECCA CYRUS' REVIEW:Smallville: Spell By Rebecca Cyrus (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Hi, everyone! Thanks for having me! I'll try and be a good counterpoint for you all!
First, the positive.
I think that it's great that Lana and Clark have finally gotten over their issues. It was beginning to drag a bit. Lana and Jason's relationship was developing, and yet we still have lingering issues with Clark, and all of it stemmed from the fact that because Lana was afraid of what Clark would think, she hid her feelings from him. Well now, those feelings are out, and that's what really makes this episode for me. Whether Clark or Lana get together or not, at least now they're on an even keel. She can stop hurting his feeling, he can stop hurting hers, and maybe they can get on with their lives and be friends again.
I liked the witchcraft. Call me silly, but I thought it was funny. Lana, normally so serious or sad, got to have a little fun, and Kristen got to totally stretch herself as a character. I loved it!
It reminded me of Transference, only reversed, letting Kristen take her chance with the part of a villain, and it really worked for me. Like Red, I like almost any show where the characters step out of their normal selves. It helps break the monotony.
It was good to see Lois back, too, and a little Chloe for a change. I think she's underused in the series of late, and now we get to see them in action together.
Of course, the party was a bit much... all of that nudity that everyone's talking about, it's really been bugging me, I don't know about you. It was funny, though, when Clark woke up and the people scattered all over the place. Been there? I have.
Lex Luthor playing the piano... again, funny! Personally, I think that Lex is incredibly hot, and just picturing Michael playing the piano gives me goosebumps. LOL! The blood was not so hot, but it was funny. I felt so bad for him...
All in all, the episode had a lot of good comedy. I really like the new and carefree direction about it. I know you all like Neal's reviews and stuff, so I'll try not to disagree too much, but I was a BIG fan of Buffy, and part of it was the way the characters could just lighten up. I don't like the whole serious Smallville, where everyone's unhappy all the time. Lana and Clark fighting, I mean, who needs that? I want a little romance, a little fun, and yes, some action (even girls like action!).
I read the interviews, and I hear that they are trying to bring about the first season feel again, and I like that. I see that here.
It was good to see Lois back, but I'm wondering just what she did here? I guess you could say that she was at the party... but never mind, I'm just glad she's back. I think she's the best new addition to the cast, even beyond Jason (seriously, though he's a hottie too, LOL!)
About the plot:
I think that the whole scene with Clark was a bit much, tying him down and just... you know... going after him? I mean, I would, who WOULDN'T go after Tom, but it was a bit much, I think. Like, you're a witch, do you immediately go for the hot guys, or try and get your power back! I say the power. Then the hot guys!
I was a bit disappointed that they didn't bring back Mxy or at least look into what happened at the end of last episode. I really liked Jinx, and I think it's going to be one of those episodes that we look back on and say, Man, I didn't know how important that was when I first saw it! I think Mxy will come back, for sure, and play an important role.
I wanted to know what happened with that scholarship thing. So what, did he get it? It doesn't really matter, because Lex will get him in if he needs it, but really, the witch kind of left him hanging there. Loose threads!
All of that said, I just really had a good time this episode. Good action, neat outfits, and what can I say? Clark half-naked, which, though it was a bit much, makes up for a good bit. It forwards the story a lot, because we know more about the fragments now, and it sets us up for the upcoming arc.
And next week, looks like Lex is gonna be getting some, LOL!
On a scale from one to ten, I give this episode an 8!
Until next week!
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